March 24, 2009
"IF I HAD A HAMMER"
A Musical Play
(The stage is bare except for a door, a couple of wooden chairs, and a table with an old, hand-cranked mimeograph machine sitting on it. MAX, a 21-year old beatnik boy with a goatee and a beret steps through the door and finds the air full of cigarette smoke, which he waves away from his face.
MAX: Lorraine, you’re still here? That’s exactly where I left you last night.
(Lorraine squints through the smoke wafting
LORRAINE: I’m ready, Max. Nothing can stop me now.
MAX: You need to go to sleep.
(Lorraine cavalierly waves her hand)
LORRAINE: Nah! I slept all the time when I was young.
MAX: I should think so.
LORRAINE: And you’ll help me hand them out?
MAX: That’s why I’m here.
LORRAINE: Good. Y’know, Max, as I’ve stood here all night cranking this
MAX: A crossroads to what?
LORRAINE: To a new age.
MAX: That’s what they were all saying about Kennedy and Camelot and all
LORRAINE: It’s bigger than that.
MAX: Yeah, I think you’ve been up too long.
LORRAINE: Hopefully, it will be a time when stuff like this . . .
MAX: Hey, you don’t have to convince me. But their pre-trial hearing is
LORRAINE: I know! This could well be their last chance. That’s why it’s
MAX: I’ll be there.
LORRAINE: I mean, real people?
MAX: Gosh, thanks a lot.
LORRAINE: (she thinks) Um . . . to make me look bad?
MAX: Make you look bad to whom, if I may ask?
MAX: Is that what this is all about, Lorraine? Looking good?
LORRAINE: No, not at all. It’s entirely about those five boys and the injustice
LORRAINE: We all have to draw a line somewhere and say, “If you go beyond
MAX: Right. Me, too. You could always just tackle people out in the street and
LORRAINE: I might yet.
MAX: I bet you would, too. But why do you do this, Lorraine, staying up all night,
LORRAINE: Someone’s got to, right?
MAX: Do they? Why?
LORRAINE: Because if nobody cares the whole world will go to hell.
MAX: But, Lorraine, you can’t save the whole world.
LORRAINE: No, but I can try. And step one is getting everyone to care about this
MAX: But you can’t actually make anyone else care about something, Lorraine.
LORRAINE: Oh, sure you can. These are old, time-worn techniques used by the
(Max looks skeptical)
MAX: Yeah, but even songs won’t make someone care if they don’t.
LORRAINE: If it’s the right song being sung the right way.
MAX: I don’t think that’s true.
LORRAINE: (offhandedly) Sure it is. Deep down I honestly think that people really
(Lorraine reaches into her sweater pocket, pulls
LORRAINE: Gotta smoke?
LORRAINE: I’m more than idealist, Max, I’m an instrument of God.
(Lorraine checks out the overflowing ashtray and
LORRAINE: Blah! How can coffee get colder than the room it’s in?
MAX: I don’t know. You going to the Purple Onion tonight?
LORRAINE: Oh yeah, sure. Got to.
LORRAINE: Yeah, yeah, that, too.
MAX: Not here. You can always use a dime.
LORRAINE: They fall in. That’s OK, I’ll swing by the music store.
(Lorraine sits down and puts on her shoes. Max checks
MAX: Lorraine, you drive me crazy! Why won’t you go out with me?
LORRAINE: Look, Max, you’re my friend. Let’s leave it at that, OK?
MAX: (frustrated) But I don’t want to leave it at that.
LORRAINE: If there was something here, Max, we’d know about it by now, right?
MAX: I know about it.
LORRAINE: (shrugs) It takes two to tango.
MAX: But what can I do, Lorraine?
(Lorraine smiles and hands Max a thick pile
LORRAINE: Here. Hand these out. See ya later, alligator.
(Lorraine goes through the door and out of the
(Lorraine exits the office and strides up the
LORRAINE: Demand justice now! Free the Springfield Five!
(One person takes the flyer and reads it as they
LORRAINE: (to herself) Slob!
DAN: Did you see “Twilight Zone” last night?
BOY: Oh, yeah, it was cool. Did you see “Alfred Hitchcock”?
DAN: Oh, yeah, boss.
(Dan and the Boy leave. Just then MR. BUCKLEY
MR. BUCKLEY: Hon, please, I’ve got to get in the proper frame of mind, OK?
MRS. BUCKLEY: That’s great, dear, you’re another Red Skelton.
MR. BUCKLEY: (imitates Red Skelton’s lisp) Good night and God blesh.
MRS. BUCKLEY: (shakes her head) Still in bed.
(Mr. Buckley looks at his watch and frowns)
MR. BUCKLEY: It’s after ten, what’s with him?
MRS. BUCKLEY: You tell me. Ever since he graduated high school and started
(Mr. Buckley considers this for a moment, then
(Phil’s voice comes from the darkness behind
MR. BUCKLEY: Aren’t you supposed to be at work?
PHIL: I got the day off.
MR. BUCKLEY: How come?
PHIL: It just happens that way sometimes.
MR. BUCKLEY: Huh. Well, why don’t you get out of bed.
PHIL: Why? What’s the difference?
(Mrs. Buckley steps up beside her husband)
MR. BUCKLEY: Because it’s a beautiful day.
PHIL: It’s a beautiful day here in my bed, too.
MR. BUCKLEY: I don’t like this behavior, Phil.
MR. BUCKLEY: Yeah. So get your ass out of bed!
PHIL: Yeah, yeah, I will.
MR. BUCKLEY: Do it soon.
PHIL: All right. OK.
MRS. BUCKLEY: Y’know, Phil, if you waste this day, you’ll never get it back.
PHIL: Yeah? Big deal.
MRS. BUCKLEY: (to her husband) You see?
MR. BUCKLEY: Yeah, I see.
MRS. BUCKLEY: What can we do?
MR. BUCKLEY: How the hell am I supposed to know?
MRS. BUCKLEY: Bye.
(Mr. and Mrs. Buckley exit stage left. The lights come up on Phil’s bedroom, where there is a bed, a guitar, and a dresser with a mirror where an old stereo reposes.
(Phil shuts the book. He walks over to his dresser,
PHIL: Tonight we have a really big shew. I mean, a really, really big shew. Let’s
Thank you. Thank you very much. I’d like to play my newest song
(Phil sits down on the bed, strums his guitar, but
(He moves the mike away from the amp, then
(This is the all-purpose variety of music store that sells most every sort of instrument and all the accessories. Lorraine stands before a large variety of guitar picks holding her guitar and deliberates. She chooses a pick, checks its thickness, then drops it back in its bin. Finally, Lorraine makes her decision, chooses a pick, then steps over to the counter and pays the portly, middle-aged CLERK a quarter.
PHIL: (singing, poorly) This land is your land
(Lorraine steps up from behind and
LORRAINE: I love this song!
(Phil turns around and checks Lorraine out.
PHIL: Really? No kidding? Me, too.
LORRAINE: (excited) Really? Come on, let’s play it together.
(Lorraine begins playing the song and Phil
LORRAINE & PHIL: (singing) As I went walking
This land is your land
I roamed and rambled
The sun came shining
(Suddenly, everybody in the store, including the old
EVERYBODY: This land is your land
(Everybody laughs and claps, then returns to
LORRAINE: Yes, very much. Do you?
PHIL: Oh, yeah. Uh, my name’s Phil, what’s yours?
(Phil takes the flyer looking confused)
PHIL: Is that a new band?
LORRAINE: No! Don’t you read the newspaper?
PHIL: Sure, but I must’ve missed it.
LORRAINE: It’s been the headline for the last week.
PHIL: The neighbor’s dog grabs our paper all the time and chews it up. What’s going on?
LORRAINE: The Springfield Five are five colored boys who were arrested for no good
PHIL: Oh. OK. Tomorrow night, huh?
LORRAINE: At 8:00.
PHIL: (frowns) But tomorrow’s Sunday, y’know.
LORRAINE: Yeah? So?
PHIL: So, Ed Sullivan’s on Sunday at eight.
(Lorraine grimaces with disdain)
LORRAINE: Oh, that’s too bad. I’m talking about real problems in the real world here.
PHIL: I know, I’m just telling you that that’s not a good time for a meeting.
(Lorraine looks stricken)
LORRAINE: You think? I printed 500 flyers.
PHIL: (shrugs) It may not mean anything, y’know, maybe he hasn’t got anyone
LORRAINE: Have you got a cigarette?
PHIL: Sure. Wanna get a cup of coffee to go with it?
(Lorraine looks him up and down)
LORRAINE: (grins) OK. Caffeine and nicotine are my favorite food groups.
PHIL: Don’t forget beer, it’s just like liquid bread.
(Lorraine laughs and she and Phil exit.
(The lights come up on Phil and Lorraine sitting at a table in a coffee house. There are a two or three other tables with coffee-drinking patrons sitting at them. Lorraine and Phil both drink mugs of coffee and smoke cigarettes)
(Lorraine really looks at Phil)
LORRAINE: Do you know what I mean?
PHIL: (shrugs) No, not really.
LORRAINE: Haven’t you ever had a feeling of pure empathy?
LORRAINE: It’s like sympathy, only you don’t feel bad for someone, you feel
PHIL: Oh, yeah. “Lassie” does that to me almost every week.
LORRAINE: (shakes her head) TV again! Jesus!
PHIL: You don’t like TV?
LORRAINE: No, I don’t. I think it makes people apathetic.
PHIL: It’s just entertainment.
LORRAINE: And some entertainment has value. But mindless entertainment is useless.
PHIL: (shrugs) Me? Oh, well, I have a wide range of interests.
LORRAINE: (nods) Really? Like what?
(Phil suddenly feels cornered)
PHIL: Well, like everything.
LORRAINE: (skeptical) Everything, huh? Interested in paleontology?
PHIL: Do you know very much about paleontology?
LORRAINE: (smiles) No.
PHIL: (grins) It turns out I’m the foremost authority.
LORRAINE: OK. So, what’s your favorite subject?
PHIL: You mean like in school?
LORRAINE: No, I mean like in life.
PHIL: Oh, that. Well . . . uh . . . music, I guess.
LORRAINE: You sure don’t sound convinced.
PHIL: No, I am. Music. Definitely. I wanna be a musician.
LORRAINE: (surprised) Really?
LORRAINE: You know, it’s really hard to be a musician. I take guitar lessons twice a
PHIL: (skeptical) Well . . . It all depends on what you’re after, right?
LORRAINE: (confused) What do you mean?
PHIL: Well, that’s if you want to be, say, a good or great musician.
LORRAINE: (nods) Right.
PHIL: Well, Bobby Darin doesn’t really have a great voice, but he’s a very successful
LORRAINE: Yeah, but he’s a great song writer.
(Phil waves his hand in total deprecation)
PHIL: You can hire guys to do that.
LORRAINE: Yeah, so . . . ?
(Lorraine consider this for a second, then
LORRAINE: That’s silly. Of course you do. What are you talking about? If it’s not their musical ability then it’s their presentation. It’s gotta be something.
PHIL: (confused) Hootenanny? Is that like when you square-dance and stuff?
LORRAINE: (laughs) No. Hootenanny night means that it’s open microphone for anyone
PHIL: (nods) Will you be there?
LORRAINE: (smiles and nods) Yes, I will. I’m going to sing a song tonight. You really
PHIL: Right. I do. And I will.
(Lorraine suddenly stands)
PHIL: Sure. Absolutely.
LORRAINE: (smiles) Great. Will you sing a song?
PHIL: (shrugs) Do I have to?
LORRAINE: No, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. None of these
PHIL: (nods) Right.
LORRAINE: (smiles) OK. See ya there if you’re there.
PHIL: I’ll be there. Nice meeting you.
LORRAINE: You, too.
(Lorraine departs. The Waitress steps up and
PHIL: (reads the bill) Forty-five cents, eh?
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